The structure of the Australian education system has presented several challenges to the integration of financial education in the school curriculum.
Australia has eight states and territories, each with constitutional responsibility for the delivery of school education and associated curriculum and assessment within their own state-based curriculum framework. Within each state and territory there are also three sectors of education: Government, Catholic, and the Independent school sector. In each jurisdiction schools systems and individual schools have to juggle and respond to local, state and national priorities. These priorities impact on jurisdictional curriculum frameworks and require states and territories to make difficult decisions on how these priorities will be addressed.
Overlaying state education responsibilities are national goals for schooling and national priorities agreed under a Ministerial Council comprised of federal, state and territory education ministers. For the past thirty years the school education curriculum framework in each jurisdiction has had to comply with and support the national goals of schooling and their curriculum has had to align with national statements of learning across English, mathematics, science, civics and citizenship as well as information and communication technology. National funding and testing has been linked to these curriculum areas. Outside of these nationally agreed priority areas, jurisdictions have had flexibility to include other curricula. Until recently, financial education was not seen as a core educational skill across jurisdictions and it was an elective component of secondary schools. A key mechanism in securing political willingness to include financial education in school education was the development of the National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework. In 2005, the Education Ministers from each state and territory, as members of the then Ministerial Council for Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA)1, commissioned the development of the Framework. This has ensured ownership of the Framework across all eight jurisdictions.
The Framework was endorsed by all jurisdictions in 2005, and all states and territories agreed that from 2008 it would be integrated into all jurisdictional curricula. Following the negotiation of new national goals for schooling2 in 2008, the rationale for the Framework was updated in 2009. The advent of the national Australian Curriculum, which is being phased in over 2011-20163, prompted a second and more comprehensive review of the Framework in 2011 to ensure the dimensions and progression of student learning were better aligned with the new curriculum. The changes to the Framework were agreed by all education jurisdictions.
Since late 2008, Australia has been undergoing significant reform in the school education sector, including preparing for the phased introduction of a national Australian Curriculum from 2011. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), established in 2009, is charged with developing the new Australian Curriculum from Kindergarten to Year 12 in agreed learning areas4. State and Territory education departments are responsible for implementing the Australian Curriculum.
The advent of the new national curriculum presented an excellent opportunity to strengthen the consistency and coherence of financial literacy education taught in Australian schools. In 2009-2010, ASIC made one of its key priorities the integration of financial literacy in relevant learning areas of the national curriculum. In partnership with relevant professional associations, and with the support of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board, ASIC participated actively in the consultation process on the draft curriculum for Mathematics, English and Science. As a result the integration of financial literacy content in these curriculum areas is strengthened. For example, there is a sub-strand in the Mathematics curriculum called 'Money and financial mathematics'. ASIC has continued to advocate strongly for inclusion of financial literacy content and contexts as other curriculum areas are developed. For example, the content of the draft Economics and Business curriculum, due for Ministerial approval in December 2013, includes significant content about consumer and financial literacy.
In 2011, ASIC led a review of the National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework to better align the dimensions and learning descriptions in the Framework to the structure and content of the new national Australian Curriculum and to take account of both national and international developments in education and financial literacy research and of rapid advances in technology that have impacted greatly on Australians' use of online and digital environments in their everyday lives. The Framework now sets out an agreed national approach to the integration of financial education in the compulsory years of schooling from Foundation to Year 10 and provides guidance on how the subject may be structured to support progressions of learning.
The Australian approach to securing the inclusion of financial literacy in school curricula has been based on using the mechanisms available within well-established educational approaches and cooperative partnerships. The ability to influence public policy and see linkages across government and education has been essential. In developing the original Framework in 2005, consultation was key to inform the national approach. The MCEETYA Working Party who developed the Framework included a highly specialised team of educational experts from all jurisdictions and education sectors who knew the national and jurisdictional educational landscape well, had excellent stakeholder networks and formed productive and respectful relationships. This collaborative approach has continued with the representatives from state and territory education sectors involved in the revision of the Framework in 2011.
Since the National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework was first agreed in 2005, a significant challenge to the inclusion of financial literacy in the school curriculum has been how to develop teacher capability nationally. In 2007-09 the Australian Government provided funding to develop and fund a national professional learning programme for teachers to raise awareness of the National Consumer and Financial
Literacy Framework and links to state and territory curriculum Frameworks. The government provided further funding to ASIC in the 2011 and 2013 federal budgets to develop and deliver a MoneySmart Teaching professional learning programme and resources to ensure teachers had ready access to the materials they needed to teach financial literacy effectively as part of the Australian Curriculum. All professional learning programs have been delivered either in formal partnership or in collaboration with state and territory education departments.